June 27, 2011

    Last month, I watched this video from Kathryn Schulz who is a "wrongologist". What she said caught my attention about how we react from being right or wrong and the emotions and beliefs that go along with it.

    Then I asked myself these questions:

    • How can this relate to IT?
    • What can we learn from being wrong?
    • Who do we blame when something goes wrong?

    Kathryn talks about how the aviation industry got it right after many years. Let's face it, this is an industry where mistakes are not acceptable. Imagine you are about to board a plane, and they tell you the availability of the plane is 99.5% or the capacity of the plane is over by 20%. Would you feel comfortable?' The changes and decisions they make on a daily basis have great consequences for all of their passengers.

    The aviation industry realized that they had to move away from blaming an individual when something went wrong. Individuals make mistakes. It is inevitable. So they figured out that the answer to something going wrong was not an individual's fault. Mistakes are great information and an opportunity to learn and improve. So what the aviation industry decided to focus on was their system/process. Where did the system/process fail and why?' We might not be able to get perfect people, but we can definitely improve the process, so that mistakes (by people or IT components) are minimized.

    How can this relate to IT?

    IT obviously does not want to be wrong. But it seems that when something goes wrong in IT, there is finger pointing from Developers to System Administrators, Database to Application Developers and everyone else blaming the Network group!

    Processes and Best Practices like ITSO (IT Service Optimization) can help minimize those mistakes by ensuring that the business requirements are understood for all IT services, ensuring risk levels are considered and prioritized and planning for future scenarios and how they will affect services, applications and servers.
    ITSO Process

    As the process matures, we provide better value to the business, better alignment and better risk assessment.

    What can we learn from being wrong?

    Danish scientist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr defined an expert as "A person that has made every possible mistake within his or her field."' So being wrong should be taken as an opportunity to learn that time and effort will lead us to well being right!!
    In ITSO, there is an unknown sixth part of the process Continual Service Improvement. When you complete the 5th step, go back to the 1st step. Many variables in IT that affect services are in constant flux. There is a continuous need to realign IT processes to the changing business needs. This continuous process is how we gain IT maturity.
    TeamQuest's Capacity Management Maturity Model

    Who do we blame when something goes wrong?

    We can blame people or even computers/operating systems/application. But that approach will only lead us to staying in a reactive mode, as people and IT components will eventually be wrong (they are not perfect). For example, an excellent IT operator might be up all night sick and the next day might not be 100% alert and could make a mistake. A disk, which has been working fine for years, all of a sudden might fail. There are no guarantees for any of these two scenarios. Following a process (whether it's a written process or an application transaction process) can minimize and in some cases avoid the mistake completely. A disk can be measured, diagnosed and also we could have a contingency plan in case the disk fails.

    IT will make mistakes. Take those mistakes as an opportunity to learn to be right. It is the only path to maturity. Remember that IT maturity is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride!

    Category: best-practices